Ellen Burstyn

One of the most popular actresses in film and television during the 1970s, Ellen Burstyn wowed critics and audiences alike with her enormously skilled and sympathetic performances as strong and complex women who struggle against what seem like insurmountable challenges in such films as "The Last Picture Show" (1971), "The Exorcist" (1973) and "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974), which earned her an Academy Award in 1975. Despite her considerable talent and skill in both heavy drama and comedies like "Same Time, Next Year" (1978), she found it difficult to find substantial parts in the '80s, so she divided her time between running the Actors Equity Association and roles in TV movies like "The People vs. Jean Harris" (1981), as well as top-billing her own short-lived sitcom, "The Ellen Burstyn Show" (ABC, 1986-87). The actress gradually returned to feature films in the 1990s, which culminated in a harrowing Academy Award-nominated turn as a woman in the grip of addiction in Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream" (2000). Now back on every director's wish list, she followed this with a succession of well-regarded projects, including "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" (2002), "Mitch Albom's For One More Day" (2007) and "W." (2008) as Barbara Bush. She also penned a 2007 memoir, "Lessons in Becoming Myself," which detailed her difficult upbringing and traumatic relationship with her third husband, actor and writer Neil Burstyn (aka Neil Nephew). Continuing working steadily well into her 80s, Burstyn performed character parts in film and television, ranging from a campy series of Lifetime films based on the novels of V.C. Andrews to a moving arc on the dramedy "Louie" (FX 2010-15). Truly an inspiration, Burstyn proved that women of any age could not only land thoughtful, provocative roles, but dominate opposite their similarly aged male counterparts.